Do smoking and working out go together? On paper, the stimulating effect of the nicotine in cigarettes should be beneficial to your workout and bodybuilding efforts. But in practice it is outweighed by the negative side effects.
Nicotine Is A Stimulant
The reason why people smoke is because of nicotine, a stimulating substance that acts in a similar way as caffeine, making you more alert and letting you feel more energetic. Which of course sounds like having a cigarette before a workout actually isn’t such a bad idea.
Oxygen, Pulse And Blood Pressure
However, the positive effect nicotine might possess is outweighed by the negative consequences smoking can have on your workouts. In general, smokers peform worse at fitness tasks than non-smokers on a comparable fitness level.
One of the reasons for this is very likely that a long-term outcome of smoking is that it can limit the capacity and function of your lungs and restrict blood flow in your veins. These mean that less oxygen and nutrients will be transported to your muscles.
An immediate effect of having a cigarette right before your session is that the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood will go up and oxygen will go down. In addition to the already lower amount of oxygen your lungs are able to provide, this will further lower your workout performance.
Another outcome of smoking just before a workout is that your blood pressure and pulse will increase, which translates to your heart and body having more stress in addition to what they already have to cope with from working out. When you then try to go for that final rep on the last set of an exercise, you may not be able to do it.
Give Your Body A Short Break
I don’t have to preach you about the dangers of smoking – you have probably heard it all a thousand times before. But even when we only talk about the effect smoking has on your fitness or bodybuilding efforts, then there is some clear evidence that it might have a negative impact.
If you don’t want to quit, then I suggest you try not to smoke 30 – 60 minutes before your workout. This is about the amount of time it takes your body to get blood pressure, pulse and carbon monoxide under control after you smoked a cigarette.
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Picture courtesy of Sean Naber.